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BMW Topples Toyota as Most Valuable Car Brand

Safety scandal sours consumers on Japanese maker.

by on Apr.29, 2010

BMW -- its X6M shown here -- has become the world's most valuable auto brand, surpassing Toyota, which has been hurt by its safety scandal.

With consumers increasingly soured by the maker’s ongoing safety scandal, Toyota has been toppled as the most valuable automotive brand in the world, according to a new study, replaced in the top spot, by Germany’s BMW.

Ford and Volkswagen both gained ground in the latest BrandZ Top 100 survey compiled by the market research firm Millward Brown.  But two other German brands, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, lost ground in the annual study of brand value – which is based on both financial performance and the perceptions of more than 1 million consumers.

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The firm placed Toyota’s brand value at $21.77 million, just slightly behind BMW’s $21.82 million.  Among all companies, the Japanese maker ranked 26, while the German brand came in at 24.  In fact, both companies actually declined in value over the last year, Toyota by 27%, BMW by a more modest 9%.

The worldwide recession clearly played a factor, but Toyota, in particular, was hammered by safety issues that have led to the recall of millions of vehicles in recent months, mostly due to problems related to so-called sudden acceleration.

Nonetheless, Millward Brown’s global brand director, Peter Walshe, said he anticipates the troubled Japanese firm can and will recover from its ongoing problems since history shows “strong brands are more likely to recover from a crisis,” he told the trade publication Automotive News.

For its part, Ford’s reputation has benefited from a variety of factors, according to various industry analysts, including its decision to avoid a federal bailout, last year.  Walshe, in particular, pointed to the maker’s focus on technology, such as its new voice-activated Sync system.  Ford’s rank rose to 7 among automakers, its brand value climbing to $7 billion, an increase of 19%.

Volkswagen also saw its value rise – by 20% — coming in just behind Ford with a brand value of $6.99 billion.  The German maker’s luxury subsidiary Audi, meanwhile, gained 2% in value, to $3.6 billion.

Both Ford and VW are seen as “trustworthy brands,” noted a statement from Millward Brown.

Toyota wasn’t the only high-value Japanese brand to take a hit in the latest Brandz Top 100 study.  Honda’s value fell 11%, to $14.3 million.  It retained its position as number three among all automakers, but its overall rank slipped to 46.

Some of the biggest hits were taken by luxury automakers, who have taken an unusually hard hit during the latest recession.  Mercedes-Benz, for example, dropped to 53 among all brands, while Porsche fell to 65, among auto brands, they still held the number 5 and 6 slots, respectively.

Google was the top brand overall, according to Millward Brown, and worth $114 million, with IBM and Apple rounding out the Top 3. Six automakers were among the top 100 brands, according to the survey, but reflecting the industry’s hard times, their collective value slipped by 15% for the year, more than any other industry.

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